by John Borst, PP Rotary Club of Dryden, ON

Two tragedies, one in the USA; the other in Canada. Only a few weeks separate them.  The first occurred on February 14, 2018, in Parkland FL. at Marjory Stoneman Douglas H. S. where 17 lost their lives to a gunman with an AR-15; the second took place at a highway intersection, on April 7, 2018, when a bus carrying the Humboldt Saskatchewan Broncos Junior B Hockey team collided with a transport truck, and 16 lost their lives. Only 13 players survived and as I write this all but two are still in the hospital, many still in critical condition.

Tragedy Humboldt Broncos' Crash 400x300There isn’t much difference between the transport truck and the AR-15 gun. Both are human-made objects capable of destroying human life in a matter of moments.  Both were in the hands of one person, one with intent, the other without.

The result is the same. Lives lost with the majority young people. Extended families are mourning and needing counselling! Communities and nations are in shock.

With the advent of the Internet, the response is not only local but national and global. Both Americans and Canadians have used to raise millions in funds to support the victims of these tragedies.

To date under the leadership of the Broward Education Foundation more than 36,000 American’s have used the portal to contribute over $8,982,000 CND in nearly eight weeks since the Parkland tragedy. In Canada, Sylvie Kellington established the portal. 130,174 people have contributed $11,639,776 CND in 9 days.

“We’ve never seen anything like this before in Canada,” CEO of GoFundMe, Ron Solomon said. “It’s by far the largest campaign. But what is most phenomenal is that people started to donate in Western Canada … then it spread to the United States, and now donations are coming from 65 countries.”

The Tragedies and Rotary

Humboldt Saskatchewan, a community of just under 6000, does not have a Rotary Club but Nipawin* the destination to which the bus and players were heading does. Both communities are in my District 5550.

This week, I received a post from our District Governor which read in part:

I have had requests from District Governors from Alberta, from SW Ontario and Michigan and from Newfoundland asking what they can do to help in this time of tragedy. One of our own clubs is considering setting up a scholarship fund.


How else can D5550 best respond to this tragedy? Many of our clubs are in towns/cities that are home to SJHL teams. What are your wishes as a District?  Or do you wish to do something as a club rather than as the District?

Our Rotary focus is very much on youth. Would a D5550 annual scholarship be an appropriate response? If so, how large should it be? For what kind of education and at what level of education? University? Trades?

I invite all the Presidents to discuss this with your Clubs and to provide feedback to me, to your AG, or to members of the Board of Directors for best ways to respond. Also, please feel free to respond individually. We look forward to hearing from you!

This e-letter got me wondering did any Rotary Club have the courage, given the different object involved to support the victims in Parkland. What I found shook me to the core and should do so to every Rotarian.

The only Club which showed any response according to a Google search was the Rotary Club of Coconut Creek on their FaceBook page. There they have a link and encourage people to contribute to the Broward Education Foundation “gofundme” page.

But that is not all because another post reveals this:

Rotarian Family,

Tragedy Gina Montalto-200With great sadness I have to tell you that one of our Interactors, Gina Montalto, 14 years old, was one of the victims from last week’s tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Rotary Club of Coral Springs/ Parkland sponsors that Interact Group.

Her service is today at 10:30 am at Mary Help of Christians in Parkland. We have several people attending. Please keep her and her family in your prayers. 

And this:

Dream Catchers

The Rotary Club Meeting tonight will feature representatives from the Dream Catcher Family- a group of people from other communities who have been affected by mass shootings such as we are now experiencing.

In a previous post I asked:

“Just imagine what Rotary would do if another young male with an AR 15 walked into an Interact meeting and opened fire. Would we act then? Is that what it would take?”

And in another post, I asked if Rotary would stand”in solidarity with the ‘iGeneration’ Interactors?”

I think we have the answer. The answer is no in both cases. And that is infuriating!

What has happened to Rotary International that its leaders can not see a way through the morass that is Article 16 Section3 of The Standard Rotary Club Constitution?

Tragedy-map-Parkland 700

The Rotary Club of Coconut Creek found two ways to help out its community. Why couldn’t other clubs have been informed of the “gofundme” initiative? Why wasn’t the death of an Interactor publicised so that we all share in the grief for one of our own? Imagine if clubs from around the World had sent condolences to Gina’s family. How healing would that have been for her parents and relatives?

What has happened to our humanity, to our sense of compassion, to our sense of empathy and our sense of brotherly and sisterly love? And last but not least to our concept of “Service Above Self”?

Fear of politics has made us mute in the face of tragedy. Fear of politics has made us incapable of action in the face of tragedy. Fear of politics is causing us to betray the very principles of peace. Fear of politics is the bully, the dictator, and the tyrant which shuts us down.

There is no existential or phenomenological difference between the gun that created the tragedy in Parkland and the truck that caused the tragedy outside Tisdale, Saskatchewan. Rotary Clubs are scrambling to find ways to respond to and assist the communities experiencing the sad slaughter of young lives caused by a truck. They should have been doing the same for the communities experiencing the sad slaughter of young lives caused by a gun.

It is not too late; we can still help both. Thank you, Coconut Creek Rotary, for showing to the Rotary World, there is a way.

*Nipawin is the first location where the injured were taken. Eventually, all of the injured were moved to hospitals in Saskatoon. It is also the location where one of our very recent Past District Governors resides. She is also a doctor of medicine. She has recently retired. I contacted her and learned she was not on Code Orange that Friday evening.